Adaptogens beyond stress, fatigue, and energy: A journey into improved cognition, well-being, and depression.

Adaptogens are a group of herbal supplements that have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions.

These miracle substances are most commonly known for their ability to prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress on the body, which leads to decreased fatigue, improved performance, and better stress regulation. But, some adaptogens go above and beyond helping in other areas of your life as well.

This article is going to dive into the role adaptogens (mainly eleuthero and roseroot) play in improving cognition, well-being, and depression.

For a primer on adaptogens, check out one of my previous articles. It should get you up to speed on what adaptogens are, a little bit about their history, and it will provide you with information about adaptogen’s ability to decrease fatigue and combat stress.

Adaptogens and cognition

Cognition is just a fancy psychology word that means “to think”. We use our cognitive abilities when we do things we typically associate with using our brain – math, playing chess, reading a book – but there are also some subtler forms of thought – interpreting sensory input from various places in our body, orchestrating physical actions, and empathizing with others that we don’t typically think of as requiring conscious thought.

But they fall under the umbrella of cognition, too.

Two adaptogens, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea) are associated with increasing cognition. That is, they’re associated with being able to improve our ability to think.

Eleuthero is also known as Siberian ginseng. One study showed that 300mg of daily eleuthero supplementation for 8 weeks significantly improved cognitive function in an elderly population.

Roseroot has been more extensively studied for its ability to improve our ability to think: Four studies have linked roseroot supplementation with improved cognition.

In the first, 170mg of roseroot for two weeks was shown to improve performance on work-related tasks by approximately 20%. The participants in the study were physicians and the improvement in cognition observed in the study could be due to decreased fatigue.

The second study involved 82 people taking 200mg of rhodiola extract twice a day for four weeks. The participants in this study experienced increased social abilities and work function.

The third study examined students during exam time. The researchers tested the effect of 20 days of roseroot supplementation versus placebo on test scores in 40 students. They noticed taking roseroot improved test scores by 8.4% relative to placebo.

The fourth and final study examining the effects of roseroot on cognition looked at the effect of five days of supplementation (either 370mg or 555mg) on the capacity for mental work. This double-blind study of 121 participants showed that roseroot supplementation increased the capacity for mental work relative to placebo.

Adaptogens and well-being

Well-being is a measure that goes above and beyond the traditional definition of health.

It’s a term that incorporates the physical, the mental, and the social aspects of life to get an understanding of your feelings of fulfillment, satisfaction, accomplishment, and comfort.

It’s probably the most scientific measure we have of asking “how happy are you” in a philosophical sense.

Roseroot supplementation, the same adaptogen mentioned in the previous section, has been linked to improvements in measures of subjective well-being in two separate studies.

The first study I’m mentioning here is one of the same studies showing an improvement in cognition with roseroot supplementation: the study testing the effects of 20 days of roseroot supplementation in students during exam time.

The researchers conducting this study also included a measure of the general well-being of the participants and noted an increase relative to the placebo group.

The second study was also mentioned in the previous section: the study testing the effect of 5 days of roseroot supplementation in military cadets.

The researchers in this study also included a measure of well-being and, much like the other study, noticed an improvement in well-being with roseroot supplementation.

Adaptogens and depression

Depression is a medical illness that can creep its way into just about every aspect of your life. It negatively affects how you feel, think, and act.

It’s estimated that 1 in 15 adults suffer from depression and 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their lives.

The adaptogen roseroot has been linked to being able to decrease depression in one double-blind study.

The study, published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, tested the effects of 42 days of roseroot supplementation in patients diagnosed with depression.

They measured depression using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD) questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

Roseroot supplementation improved scores on the HAMD rating scale by 30-35% and by 50% on the BDI.

How to take eleuthero and roseroot

Eleuthero can be found in supplements as root, stem, and leaf extracts. The dose in the study showing improvements in cognition was 300mg per day. So, if you want to experience cognitive benefits as a result of eleuthero, you should look for supplements with at least this much in them per serving.

The doses used in the studies involving roseroot ranged from 100mg to 680mg. To experience the benefits associated with roseroot on cognition, well-being, and depression, you need to take at least 100mg of roseroot per day.


Adaptogens have gained a decent respect for their ability to help manage stress, fatigue, and energy.

As research continues to develop, we learn more about their other functions.

Benefits of eleuthero and roseroot beyond stress, fatigue, and energy have solid scientific backing. Do you supplement with either of these? What has your experience been like? Let me know in the comments below!

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10 energy-boosting habits to incorporate into your daily routine

Energy is your most valuable commodity. Nowadays, the shortage of time, the responsibilities, and the challenges of day-to-day life are endless.

If you don’t have the energy to look at your day and say, “I’ve got this,” you can find yourself in a constant mental state of feeling behind – the fatigue and exhaustion set in shortly after.

And you can only have so many cups of coffee.

Maybe you’re trying to cut back on caffeine and are searching for alternative ways to boost energy. Whatever your motives are, here are 10 healthy, research-backed, habits that will help you boost your energy.

Have fun kicking today in the butt!

1) Meditate

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Nursing is an exhausting profession – mentally and physically.

In a study recently published in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, a group of researchers tested the effects of 8-weeks of mindfulness based training on a group of 36 nurses. Throughout the course of the study, they measured the nurses’ ability to keep their attention focused and recorded brain activity during the task.

They found the energy required to maintain attention decreased as the nurses became more trained.

This study tells us meditation can boost energy by using less of it when we’re carrying out our day-to-day tasks.

2) Drink water

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Not drinking enough water decreases energy.

Scientists from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory showed that mild dehydration alters a person’s mood, energy levels, and ability to think clearly – even at rest.

Stay on top of your water game by drinking at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. If you wait until your thirsty, it’s already too late.

Boost your energy by staying hydrated!

3) Have a meal replacement shake for breakfast

Meal replacement shakes are great because they act as a full meal replacement (shocking, I know). Compared to a protein shake, which contains protein but minimal amounts of carbohydrate and fat, meal replacement shakes are packed with protein, carbs, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

When life is hectic, it’s easy to forego breakfast and rely on caffeine to get you through the morning. This inevitably leads to a late morning crash, however.

They’ll supply you with the energy you need to start the day. It gives you everything you need, and it’s one less decision to make in the morning as you head out the door.

4) Take a nap

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Naps are not for the lazy and unmotivated. Some powerful, famous people have effectively used a little midday shut-eye to keep themselves alert and effective. People like Margaret Thatcher, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, and Albert Einstein.

If it’s good enough for these geniuses, it’s good enough for you, right?

Sleep experts suggest 10-20 minute power naps are optimal for a quick boost of alertness.

Reset the system and close your eyes for a bit.

5) Take a walk

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Patrick O’Connor and Derek Randolph from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia found just 10-minutes of walking or climbing a flight of stairs is more effective for boosting energy than a 50mg tablet of caffeine.

They published their results in the journal: Physiology and Behavior.

This study suggests a more effective way to beat the mid-afternoon crash may be to get up and get moving, rather than reaching for another cup of coffee.

6) Get enough sleep

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We are not a culture that values sleep. In the U.S. the average hours of sleep during the work week is 6 hours and 40 minutes.

Combine that with another stat saying only 10 percent of adults require less than 7 to 8 hours and it’s reasonable to conclude that much of the population is sleep-deprived.

Not getting enough restful sleep is detrimental to daytime energy. Combat this detriment by making sleep a priority.

Some healthy bedtime habits include maintaining a consistent bed time, cutting down on screen use in the few hours before bed, and cutting back on caffeine – especially in the afternoon.

7) Take a break

Want to do more? Do less. That is, take more breaks.

Research suggests we’re designed to work in cycles of energy expenditure and rest. We typically override signals to recover by slamming coffee, energy drinks, or sugar.

Just five minutes of recovery where you take the time to get up, walk around, or have a glass of water can do wonders for your energy levels and your productivity.

Some take this concept further by using the pomodoro technique. This technique involves setting a timer for 25-minutes of non-stop work, then allowing yourself 5-minutes of recovery before you put in another 25-minutes. And the cycle continues.

8) Exercise regularly


A counterintuitive way to combat fatigue and boost energy is to expend more energy.

The human body is incredibly adaptive. When you exercise, your body rises up to meet the energy challenge by making more energy available.

Low to moderate intensity exercise is the best for boosting energy levels.

9) Eat right

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Food is fuel. So, it’s not surprising that high-quality food leads to high-quality fuel and energy.

Keeping energy levels high requires a balanced diet including unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Get your vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and take a daily multivitamin to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.

10) Get outside

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Spending time outdoors is good for the body; it’s good for the soul.

In 2010, lead investigator Richard Ryan (Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Education) of the University of Rochester published a study being outside in nature makes people feel more alive.

They also suggested that the boost in energy people experienced went beyond just what you would expect from physical activity and social interaction alone.


The daily challenges of life can be exhausting. Adopting a lifestyle that puts you in the optimal physical and mental state to meet those challenges can do wonders.

Experiment with one or a few of the habits I’ve listed here and let me know how they work for you!

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Quick guide: Taurine Supplementation

Taurine is a heart and blood healthy compound that provides many health benefits. It aids several anti-oxidant defense systems, it helps control blood sugar, reduces some forms of insulin resistance, and it has beneficial effects on kidney, eye, and nerve health.

Few people realize how much the normal diet contains: between 40 and 400 milligrams per day. That’s because you can get taurine from many different food sources. Things like chicken, beef, pork, and seafood all have abundant amounts of taurine in them. And, our body produces it too!

Athletes and your regular gym nuts are drawn to taurine because of its link to performance. Studies suggest just one daily dose of taurine leads to better endurance performance. But is it safe?

Taurine has gotten a bad rep in the last few years because of its link to energy drinks. More accurately put: because people abused energy drinks, everything they contained were deemed bad for your health.

I’d like to put your mind at ease.

In this article you’ll learn about how taurine works to improve performance, how you should take it, and we’ll cover a few points on safety.

What is taurine?

Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid. It’s not technically an amino acid because it has some chemical structural differences.

You’ll find taurine most prominently in excitable tissues – cardiac tissue mostly (the stuff that makes up your heart). It also circulates systemically at lower levels.

As a molecule it is highly water soluble. This means it dissolves very efficiently in water and gets carried to the body’s tissues in blood plasma.

How does taurine improve performance?

Taurine is thought to contribute to improve performance mainly through its ability to protect against the effects of oxidative stress during exercise and its ability to increase fat oxidation during exercise.

Muscle contractions while your exercising create reactive oxygen species (ROS) – little molecules that have many deleterious effects, including reduced force generation and muscle atrophy.

ROS are damaging because they contain a wonky number of electrons. This wrong number of electrons makes the molecule unstable. Because things in biology crave stability, it reacts with whatever it can to make itself stable. The unfortunate consequence of this reaction is it sacrifices another molecules stability turning it into a free radical. Unstable molecules don’t function properly and can have many unfortunate effects within the cell.

They contribute to muscle weakness and fatigue, DNA mutations in muscle cells, lipid peroxidation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and apoptosis and necrosis within muscle tissue. All these things combine to limit muscle’s ability produce energy and function optimally.

Antioxidants inhibit the oxidation of other molecules, essentially counteracting the deleterious effects of ROS.

Antioxidants step in and tell ROS to “cut the crap” and calm down. They do this by donating electrons to ROS and making them stable molecules again.

The structure of taurine allows it to perform this electron donating, ROS neutralizing reaction.

Taurine also contributes to performance by increasing the amount of fat oxidation during exercise.

Fat is the most potent source of energy for working muscles. Breaking down one gram of fat can produce 9 Calories of energy. In comparison, one gram of protein or carbohydrate produces just 4 Calories of energy. So, everything else held constant, breaking down fat will produce more energy than breaking down protein or carbohydrate.

Relying on fat for energy is more efficient and can definitely increase endurance performance.

Cyclists who ingested taurine before exercise experienced a 16% increase in total fat oxidation over the 90-minute course of their workout.

The increase in fat oxidation these cyclists experienced suggests they were able to use fat as an energy source to a greater extent than when there was no taurine ingested before the workout.

How to supplement with taurine

To experience the beneficial effects of taurine (e.g. improved performance), doses of 500 milligrams to 2,000 milligrams have shown efficacy. So you want to find a supplement that has at least 500 milligrams of taurine in it.

If you’re worried about taking too much, don’t be. Within reason.

The upper limit for taurine toxicity (2,000 milligrams) is much higher than necessary: high doses are well-tolerated. Up to 3,000 milligrams per day can be ingested with a low risk of experiencing side-effects.

Why taurine is safe

Several studies investigating the safety of taurine supplementation have been conducted. All demonstrated no safety concerns or serious adverse effects. This was noticed even in doses as high as 10,000 milligrams per day for six months straight!

Other studies have looked at 1,000 to 6,000 milligrams per day for as long as a year. They also noted no side-effects with taurine supplementation.

Taurine in moderate doses and without other stimulants (caffeine excluded) or alcohol is completely safe.

The negative health risks that have been tied to taurine are completely due to its abuse and its unfortunate association with energy drinks. Keep away from those and taurine is an excellent way to improve your performance in the gym, or wherever you choose to do your workouts.

Taking 500 milligrams once or twice a day will keep you on the healthy side of things.


Taurine is a compound found in many pre-workout supplements that can provide many health benefits as an antioxidant, and it can improve your performance by altering the energy substrate you most heavily utilize while you’re exercising.

In moderate amounts it has been deemed completely safe.

Thanks for reading and have a great week! Please leave your comments below and tell me about your experiences with Taurine! And, if you’re looking for more information on supplementation, give me a shout; I’d love to help you out.

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Quick guide: How to properly combine cardio and strength training

This article is for the cardio junkies. You know who you are: the diehard runners, the marathoners, the cyclers – those among you who think the only way a workout is worthwhile is if you burnt a hole in your runners and you’re dripping with sweat.

I want to convince you to add a wee bit of resistance training to your normal routine.

Doing this will help you get more out of your cardio, I promise.

People who love doing cardio, endurance athletes, and coaches of endurance athletes have long pushed back against the addition of strength training to their own or their athletes training regimes.

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With this article I’ll tell you why you should be doing both. I’ll also tell you exactly how strength training can boost your cardio workouts and how to successfully integrate resistance training with cardio.

Myth: Resistance training is bad if you want to improve cardiovascular fitness

It was long thought that resistance training has no effect on performance in activities that require endurance. Some even thought it was detrimental.

Research tells us this isn’t the case, however – at least when it’s done properly.

Improper integration of resistance and cardiovascular training – when you just add resistance training on top of an already exhausting cardio training workload – will do more harm than good.

If you reduce your cardiovascular training load to accommodate the added stress of resistance training, then you’ll notice a positive effect. I’ve outlined some of them below.

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Why resistance training is good for people who want to get more out of their cardio workouts

We have learned from endurance athletes that those who are stronger perform at a higher level.


Because resistance training can improve some key factors that contribute to endurance performance: aerobic power and capacity, anaerobic capabilities, and neuromuscular function.

Aerobic power and capacity consists of oxygen transport and oxygen utilization. Basically, how efficiently your body can get blood to working muscles and how well working muscles can make use of it once it gets there.

Anaerobic capabilities include:

  • Glycolytic capacity: how much energy can be created from glycolysis (one of the energy systems in the body).
  • Lactic acid production capacity: how much lactic acid (a byproduct of glycolysis) can be produced.
  • Phosphocreatine stores and utilization: the amount of energy that can be created from the phosphagen system (another one of the energy systems in the body).

Increases in these three factors result in an increase in lactate threshold, movement efficiency, and high intensity exercise endurance, which all contribute to increased endurance exercise performance.

Neuromuscular capacity involves factors related to the brain-muscle connection: motor control, muscle strength, muscle elasticity, and rate of force development.

  • Motor control: relates to how well the brain can regulate body movement.
  • Muscle strength: developing the neuromuscular connection can increase muscle strength.
  • Muscle elasticity: the ability of a muscle to snap back to its original state. Resistance training increases this too.
  • Rate of force development: how quickly a muscle can generate force is a measure of the speed it can contract.

Increases in neuromuscular capacity through strength training can increase movement efficiency and high intensity endurance exercise, which – as we’ve already learned – increase endurance exercise performance.

In addition to performance improvements, strength training can also reduce the likelihood of injury by correcting muscular imbalances and improving joint stability.

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How to integrate the two

The success of the strength training, endurance training combo lies in proper integration. Just adding strength training on top of what you’re already doing endurance-wise is nothing but a fast track to fatigue and burnout.

Taking the care to modulate the workloads of the strength and endurance portions of your overall workout, however, will get you the benefits you’re seeking.

Follow these steps to properly integrate strength training with endurance training.

Step one: Reduce the amount of cardio to accommodate the addition of resistance training.

The intent of cutting back cardio is to avoid introducing too much additional stress on the body, which will leave you vulnerable to fatigue.

How long are your training sessions right now? They shouldn’t increase with the addition of resistance training. If you typically spend an hour exercising, cut back the time you spend during that hour doing cardio to allot for some resistance training (e.g. 40 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of resistance training).

Step two: Maintain the frequency of cardio training.

Many people, including experienced trainers and coaches, compensate for the addition of resistance training by decreasing the frequency (i.e. the number of times per week) of cardio.

The scientific literature suggests better cardio performance outcomes by maintaining the frequency of cardio while decreasing the amount of cardio done in an individual session.

Step three: Mix up which you do first and mix-and-match your intensities.

Changing the sequence of cardio and resistance training is another way to manage fatigue and how fatigue effects your workout (we’re talking about performance here). If you do cardio first, you’re going to have less energy for your resistance training, which you’ll do right after or later on in the day. If you do your resistance training first, you’re going to have less energy for your cardio training.

Switch the order of your workout from time to time – either on a weekly or monthly basis – to maximize adaptations to both types of training while minimizing the changes of overwork and fatigue.

You should also mix-and-match your intensities, always pairing high-intensity with low-intensity. If you have a high intensity cardio session, pair it with a low-intensity resistance training session and vice-a-versa. This technique also ensures you don’t become overworked and fatigued.


If you’re a cardio junkie, I hope I’ve convinced you to add some resistance training to your regular workout routine. If you’re not, I hope you’ve at least learned to appreciate the importance of both in a proper training regime and learned how to seamlessly integrate the two types of exercise to get the most out of your workouts and yourself.

As always, contact me directly via my contact page if you’d like to learn more, follow the blog and follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Have a great week!




The essential guide to hydration and performance

Water is essential for each and every one of us. Hydration is so important because water makes up most of our body (depending on size and gender, it’s about 60 percent of our body weight).

Given its importance, how much do you need to stay hydrated? Do the rules change when you’re working out heavily? What else needs to be taken into consideration? What does fluid actually do in the body? And why is it so bad to be dehydrated?

I’ll answer these questions, and more, throughout the course of this article. If you’re jonesing to learn everything you’ll ever need to know about hydration, read on.

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Why you need to be hydrated

Fluid helps regulate body temperature, blood pressure, and it aids the movement and transport of essential nutrients – things you need for energy.

Your core temperature is the temperature in the deep structures of your body – where all the vital organs, like the liver, call home. Core temperature is maintained in a pretty narrow range, which is necessary for your vital organs to function. Significant drops or elevations for any prolonged period of time are bad news bears since it’s completely incompatible with human life – a.k.a. you’ll die.

Fluids in the body help keep you alive by keeping your core temperature within its functional range.

Blood pressure is the force circulating blood exerts on the walls of blood vessels. Blood pressure too high and you risk stroke, heart attack, heart failure, arterial aneurysms, or chronic kidney failure. Blood pressure too low and vital organs, like the brain, may not get enough blood to deliver it the nutrients and oxygen it needs to function.

Fluid helps regulate blood pressure by adding to blood volume or subtracting from it.

Carbohydrates, protein, fats – the essential macronutrients – are transported in the fluid of the body. No fluid, and the cells relying on these macronutrients for energy aren’t going to be getting what they need.

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What dehydration does to performance

At this point, we know the dire consequences of no water – a person can go a maximum of a week without any source of hydration before they keel over and die.

But what about subtler amounts of dehydration? It’s estimated up to 75% of the American population is functioning in a chronic state of dehydration. What is inadequate hydration of this sort going to do to you?

Subtle, but measurable, reductions in mental and physical performance.

Less fluid in the body means a decreased ability to regulate core body temperature and blood pressure: body temperature increases and the heart beats faster to compensate. Exercise of any kind will also feel harder.

Research suggests you’ll begin to feel these effects at a loss of fluid equal to 2% of body mass. Beyond 2% and may begin to feel nauseous, get diarrhea, or experience other gastrointestinal problems.

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How to stay properly hydrated

Hydration begins long before you exercise.

As a baseline, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests 3.7 liters of fluids for men and 2.7 liters of fluids for women. Individual needs will vary depending on your health, how active you are, and where you live. But this is a start.

Monitor your fluid loss as a result of exercise. This means weighing yourself pre-exercise and post-exercise.

1 liter of fluid should be consumed for every kilogram lost during exercise. For example, if you weighed 70 kilograms before you exercised, and you weighed 68 kilograms after, you need to consume 2 liters of water to completely rehydrate.

But, we still need to tweak the equation to account for the sweat and urine you’re still losing after you’ve finished working out (you continue to sweat during recovery, of course). To account for these losses too, add 25% to your original estimate.

25% of 2 liters is 0.5 liters. This means we can be reasonably confident we’re adequately rehydrating by consuming 2.5 liters of fluid in the 2-6 hours following a workout.

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What to drink

Plain water does a pretty good job if you’re thinking about hydration alone. To kick performance and recovery up a notch, there are sports drinks and supplements available.

During exercise, muscle carbohydrate stores (glycogen) are one of the major endogenous sources of energy. Having a hydrating beverage with carbohydrates maintains glycogen levels to extend peak performance.

You lose more than just fluid during exercise. You also lose vitamins and electrolytes – sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

There are a variety of sports drinks and rehydration supplements on the market that will help replace the vitamins and electrolytes you’ve lost during the course of a workout.

Contact me and I can tell you more about your options and guide you in the right direction.

Is it possible to go overboard?

Yes, but it rarely happens.

Overhydration can lead to water intoxication. When you drink a lot of water really quickly, your kidneys can’t keep up removing the excess fluid in your urine. Too much water accumulates in your bloodstream and the salt and other electrolytes in your body are essentially swamped.

The symptoms can range from mild (headaches and disorientation) to really severe (coma and death). But, again, it rarely happens.

It’s tough to do. You have to drink liters and liters of water really, really fast.

A good indicator of your hydration levels is your pee. Pay attention to it. If you’re peeing, and peeing, and peeing, and peeing, and your pee is clear ever time, give your kidneys a chance to keep up and stop drinking for a while.

If it’s dark, you’re dehydrated, and you need some fluids.

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How much fluid you need on a regular day and on a training day varies with the individual. Paying attention to a few things, such as the color of your pee and how much body weight you lose during the course of a workout, can give you an indication of how much you need to stay adequately hydrated.

Let me know what you think of the article in the comments below. If you’d like to talk more about hydration and hydration options, contact me anytime, I’d love to talk to you.

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Have a great week!